Ride On: Allegrippis Trails Offer Fun for Bikers of All Skill Levels
By Abbe Hamilton
The Allegrippis Trail System is 36 miles of contoured single-track mountain bike trail on the north side of Raystown Lake in Hesston, Pennsylvania. It turns ten this year, as if there weren’t enough reasons to celebrate the best mountain biking east of the Mississippi — and just an hour away from State College!
How did this gem wind up in Happy Valley’s backyard? Allegrippis Ridge was a remote patchwork of farms and homesteads until the late 1960s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) acquired the land for the Raystown Lake flood mitigation project. In 2002, “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the International Mountain Bike Association teamed up to develop mountain bike specific recreation opportunities on Corps property. Raystown was chosen as a location to build a demonstration trail,” says Brent Rader, a board member of Friends of Raystown Lake, the organization tasked with maintaining the trail system.
With an army of passionate local rider volunteers and a DCNR Growing Greener Grant, the entire system was completed and officially opened on May 9, 2009. “The rest, as they say, is history.” Within a year, the trails were attracting 3,000 riders and hikers a month, and visitation doubled again the next year. Currently, the trails are open year-round. You can see Raystown Lake, the largest lake in Pennsylvania, as you cruise the contours of the ridge.
With its accessible, looping trails, the ‘Grippis delights riders of every ability level. Pennsylvania mountain biking is characterized by rocky, technical trails — the kind of treatment you receive in Rothrock State Forest. In contrast, the flowy, gradual ups and downs of the Allegrippis trails make you want to go, and go. They’re almost completely free of rocks and roots.
The classic Allegrippis view is at the intersection of the Ridge, Berry Patch and Ray's Revenge trails. It overlooks Hawns Peninsula, the most remote part of Raystown Lake. The unbroken treeline of Terrace Mountain ridge rises up from the south to frame the vista.
The scenery on the trails changes throughout the year. Watch the redbud and dogwood light up the gray understory in early spring. Wild edible mushrooms are plentiful on the trails in midsummer, and it’s common to watch deer sprint up and down ravines while you ride the contours. You can hear the sound of motors on the lake during a sunset loop. Fall rides bring warm breezes off the water at sunset, and early flurries of snow accentuate the zigs and zags of trail in white.
The trails are nested in a stacked loop system. This is a huge perk. Stacked loop trails mean that a rider can choose to go farther out or loop back towards the parking lot at every trail intersection, whatever suits their ability level or their preference for that day. According to Allen Gwinn, a park ranger for the USACE at Raystown, “The stacked loop system provides users an opportunity to decide how far and how difficult they want their experience to be.”
The farthest trails wind along the lakeshore, 800 feet below the Bakers Hollow trailhead. Mostly, the trails marked “difficult” are not very different in character from the easier ones, they’re just farther from the trailhead and therefore require more endurance and more skill once fatigue sets in. For the truly fanatical, each fall the Huntingdon bike shop Rothrock Outfitters hosts an ALL-egrippis ride, where participants attempt to ride every mile of trail in a grueling 50-mile day.
The Allegrippis is designed for riders to complete trails in either direction. “Going down and around and up on a trail in one direction provides a completely different experience from going down, around and up in the other direction,” says Gwinn.
If you’re new to Allegrippis, stop by the Raystown Mountain Bike Skills Park, located across Seven Points Road from the Raystown Lake Visitor Center. This bike park can give riders an idea of what to expect on the trails, but on a smaller scale — and it’s a great place for beginner and experienced riders alike to hone their skills. The Buck, Doe and Fawn trails comprise a three-mile loop on flatter ground, with more gradual turns and grades. Beginners who ride them will have a challenging, but rewarding experience. “Those are not so difficult that a new rider would get frustrated, but the features are there to give a rider a taste of what mountain biking is like,” says Gwinn. For your visit, bring water and snacks, although the Bakers Hollow trailhead has a water fountain and vending machine. There are no restrooms at the trailheads. A standard hardtail mountain bike is ideal for the Allegrippis, and Rothrock Outfitters of Huntingdon is the nearest bicycle shop.
Ranger Gwinn’s favorite part of the Allegrippis? “Whether in the skills park or the trails in the woods, I enjoy seeing the smiling faces of accomplishment as users return to boast of the fun they just had on the trails. It’s rewarding knowing that all of the work that went into building the trails and the skills park can result in so much success and enjoyment for visitors to Raystown Lake.”
Complete your visit with a swim in the lake (the warm shallows on Hydro Loop are popular mid-ride) or a stop at the Ridenour Overlook to see the dam. Don’t forget a celebratory ice cream along Seven Points Road or in Huntingdon; or a craft beer at Boxers! #Allegrippis